Tennis Game Evolution over 60 YEARS! | Nostalgia Nerd

Tennis Game Evolution over 60 YEARS! | Nostalgia Nerd


[Joyful music, reminiscent of day time tennis with tea] Tennis is one of the earliest games ever represented
on a computer, and apart from a game of Pool developed by William Brown and Ted Lewis on
the University of Michigan’s MIDSAC computer in 1954 (which we’ll go into another time),
it was the first game to feature graphics updated in real time. Back in 1958, whilst working at Brookhaven
National Laboratory, American physicist William Higinbotham, discovered that the Donner Model
30 analogue computer, used in the lab, could calculate ballistic missile trajectories.
This wasn’t particularity useful the the labs research into peaceful atomic power uses,
but it was useful for a public open day the lab held once a year. Higinbotham decided
to use this functionality, to form the foundation of a tennis game on a connected oscilloscope,
displaying the path of a ball bouncing from one end of the court of the other. Using two
rotational controls, visitors could interact with the display and in effect, play the first
video game instance of tennis. His hopes were to intrigue visitors and perhaps spike their
curiosity for Science. Highinbotham not only succeeded at this, but also at planting a
seed that would go on to help forge the world of video games we know today. Fast forward just over a decade later, and
we have something more familiar looking. Of course, we all know it as Pong, but actually
Atari’s Pong followed a simple game known as Tennis on the Magnavox Odyssey; the first
games console. A slew of “pong” machines during the 70s and early 80s galvanised this image
in our minds. A basic tennis court, two bats and a square dot for a ball. Since then, tennis games have come a long
way, and given it’s currently Wimbledon season; check me out, I’m actually making a relevant
video, I thought we could explore their evolution on consoles through the ages. Let’s begin. The Magnavox odyssey came with several “pack-in”
cartridges – although these cartridges didn’t contain any actual data, they simply rewired
the pin outputs to instigate a different screen output. But one of these carts produced this
familiar Tennis scene for us. Originally overlays were provided to enhance the feel of the game,
but underneath, this is the output. Using 2 paddle controllers, 2 players could, for
the first time, play virtual tennis in their homes, with little effort at all, although
other than hitting back and forth, there are no rules. The Fairchild Channel F would improve proceedings
by adding actual programmable cartridges and COLOUR. Released in November 1976, tennis
was supplied as an integrated game, along with a slight variation, named hockey. Gameplay
was also improved by adding the ability to move all around the court, like a proper tennis
match, rather than being limited to sideways movement. But, it would take the Atari VCS to put tennis
into the form we’re more familiar with today, although this is still strictly an arcade
style game. Either playing with a friend, or against the computer, you simply have to
move your player towards the ball, where a swing is automatically taken. It’s fast paced,
but the simplicity and lack of challenge means matches can go on forever, leading to either
boredom, or a very sore wrist. Realsports tennis presented a more realistic
environment, adding court lines, scoring, most of the rules we expect and more importantly
hit variation. Here we have a much more engaging game, however it’s control method is a little
clunky. Rather than aiming with the joystick and swinging, here we have to use the num-pad
to set where the ball returns to, so top right would be 3, bottom left, 7 and so on. If anything
this takes the tennis formula and over-complicates it. Now here’s one that should be familiar. Tennis
was a launch title for the NES, having been released for the Famicom in 1984. Here we
have an array of features, including a a mario referee, doubles matches, co-operative multiplayer
and configurable difficulty levels. Gameplay feels at home on the NES control-pad and Nintendo’s
now-familiar style was already becoming evident. Of course, Sega would have to follow with
something similar for their Master System, and indeed, the similarities are striking.
Of course, we have the Master System’s slightly wider colour palette, and distinct PSG sound
effects, but to a layman, these games will feel like the same experience. We even have
a referee, albeit on the other side, and without that distinctive Plumber moustache. I’m sure
we’d even have Sonic in his place, if he’d existed at this point. So, from one Super Tennis to another, and
we enter, what I consider to be the most significant era for gaming, at least in terms of taking
a game and making it feel like a compelling, arcade experience. The Super Nintendo’s abilities,
transform a sedate and somewhat lack-lustre outing, into a more exciting and gripping
extravaganza. Now we have a World Circuit mode, offering eight tournaments and providing
a much more engaging and progressive experience. Thanks to the graphical abilities of the hardware,
we even have sprites resembling the top players of the time, along with an excitement inducing
moving camera and some nice break sequences. Adding to the realism, there’s also voice
announcements. Definitely one of the better Tennis games. Now here’s a game I spent many, MANY hours
playing. However, it does highlight a problem with this flow of progression. Chronologically,
we’ve progressed, but we’ve also regressed back to an 8 bit system. I’ve included it
here, because the advancement these underdog machines took, in a world that was becoming
dominated by 16 bit machines is admirable. I believe Andre Agassi tennis, is a testament
to that underdog struggle. The controls aren’t the best, but stick with it and you have a
pretty playable and colourful game, with lots of options, including changing up the court
type as and when you feel. Yes, the early to mid 90s, were a crazy time,
especially in terms of gaming. New consoles were coming and going faster than John Mcenroe
descending into an argumentative rant. The CDi is one of those interesting products,
very much aligned with that era. It offered us a seemingly impressive step up in graphics,
but at the grizzly fate of gameplay. International Tennis Open is no exception, offering you
something visually pretty close to a live action tennis match with it’s CD fed background
and rotoscoped players, but with the playability of a Space Crusade set, missing the dividing
walls. You can make do, but it’s just not as enjoyable. So, we head back to the Super Nintendo, seeking
something fun and uplifting. David Crane’s amazing tennis tries to deliver that goal
to us, but with a distinctly low camera angle. You can tell they were trying to make something
visually impressive, something to stand out against other games, but actually, it just
hampers the enjoyment. You simply can’t see enough of the court to play a decent game,
and if asked whether I want my player’s back to take up a significant portion of the screen,
or the court, I’m going to side with the court. Wimbledon Champsionship tennis on the Mega
Drive therefore retains a more appropriate, and familiar viewpoint. Graphically, we’re
not progressing at this point, in fact these visuals are close to Master System standard.
But I’ve included it to show the undulation of change during this era. To be fair, the
16 bit consoles had a long life span, witnessing many tennis games, and this outing may be
safe and lacklustre, but it’s still a playable experience. Interestingly, although it holds
the Wimbledon name, we wouldn’t get official player names until it’s sequel, ATP Tour Championship
Tennis, the following year. Japan! Is our destination for Ace wo Nerae,
derived from a Manga series which translates to Aim for the Ace! Well well well. The series
charts the story of a high school student, seeking to become a professional tennis player,
and made it’s way onto the Super Famicom during December 1993. Now here we get a tennis game
that REALLY makes use of the Super Nintendo’s rotational and sprite scaling effects. You
can switch between a mode 7 or standard view, but both offer a compelling game of tennis
which arguably knocks the socks off anything we’d seen before. You know I think this setup
would work quite well for Badminton, maybe even Squash. Now they’re really neglected
sports. Alright, so here’s one of the later games
for the 16 bit machines. We’ve seen Agassi, now it was time for Sampras to step up, and
although we don’t have the mode 7 features of our previous game, we do have some nice
parallax scrolling, new shot types and the ability to play on indoor courts, if that’s
your thing. Codemasters have made some pretty incredible games, and Pete Sampras Tennis
is no exception. Mean Machines Sega noted that this could be the Mega Drive tennis game
to beat the Super Nintendo’s Super Tennis, created several years prior, and y’know, it
certainly ticks a lot of boxes. It feels about the right time to finally move
onto to the next console generation. We can ease in with Break Point Tennis on the Sega
Saturn. Now this is an era, where in many ways, the previous generation of graphics
looked better. We may be entering the world of true 3D, which is no doubt impressive,
but to counter that, the hardware was in its infancy and lacked features such as anti-aliasing.
What we end up with is jagged edges and low resolution sprites… a step in the right
direction perhaps, but at this stage it feels a bit disjointed and murky. Actua Tennis on the Playstation would move
things along a bit more, although we’re trading jagged edges for the Playstation’s renowned
texture warping. Still it provides a playable game, if the court does seem eerily quiet
at times. It’s almost like the crowd have had the emotion sucked out of their warping
craniums. Ahhh, now, here’s one of my favourite Dreamcast
games of all time. Actually, it’s one of my favourite games of all time. Sega absolutely
nailed it with Virtua tennis and it translates extremely well onto the Dreamcast’s potent
hardware. Everything here seemed so realistic to me, even today. From the smoothness of
the graphics to the sound of the racquet hitting the ball, everything is spot on. What’s more,
it’s extremely compelling and simple to pick up and play, especially if you crack open
the mini games and four players doubles. It’s no surprise then, that Virtua Tennis
2 keeps up the momentum. It’s with these games where you really realise that tennis can translate
beautifully to a digital format. The simplicity of the early Pong games was something, but
here we have an experience that mimics what we witnessed on TV, whilst adding a generous
serving of entertainment. Importantly, Virtua Tennis 2 adds female characters whilst also
improving the visuals. Over on the Xbox however, new things were
brewing, new graphics were emerging, and Top Spin was there to capture them all. Here you
get the complete tennis experience, from training with a coach, to becoming the best player
in the world. The Xbox visuals dazzled, whilst providing an engrossing experience, depicted
in real environments, with real players. You only have to play on centre court to see how
this outing shines. Let’s switch over to the Playstation 2 for
Smash Court Tennis Pro Tournament 2, a series which takes most of its cues from Virtua Tennis,
and manages to mostly pull it off in this second outing, mixed with a focus on precision,
which moves this apart from the faster paced arcade excitement we knew with the former.
This feels like Realsports tennis trying to pull away from the original VCS tennis in
the 80s, just with several decades of graphical improvement. So, it stands to reason that Virtua Tennis
should pop up again, this time on the PS3. Now here’s the generation where things moved
from realistic, to what many would describe as photo-realistic. We’re now in the era where
you can see a character and know exactly who it is. You can even see the animations and
know who they are. We’ve still got the Virtua Tennis arcade roots, but they’ve been built
onto a fabric of real life, which pushes the genre forward. So, I skipped over the obvious Wii Sports
Tennis, mainly due to it’s bubbly cartoon feel. I want to stick to the evolution of
more realistic, serious tennis games, and so EA Sport’s Gran Slam Tennis fills in nicely.
Taking advance of the Wii motion controls, here was the tennis experience we all craved,
brought to life. You can imagine in another few decades we’ll all be playing Tennis in
VR, unable to differentiate it from the actual sport. Maybe then we’ll ask ourselves what
on earth we’re actually doing. By now, Top Spin has reached it’s fourth outing,
on the inevitable Xbox 360, and along the way it’s refined the things which made it
good, and made them better. This is a game which can cater to both those looking for
a casual bit of arcade fun, and the more serious player who wants to use precision shots to
volley their way through the tournaments. This game has loads of content, all benefiting
from the 360s graphical ability and excellent control pad. And so, having intentionally missed out computers,
because that’s a whole world in itself, we move onto the current generation of consoles.
AO International Tennis on the XBox ONE, fills a void, an absence of Tennis games on the
platform. It does it in a pretty good fashion, bringing the format up to date. As does Tennis World Tour on the PS4. Both
games released in 2018, and both games, making up for an apparent Tennis hiatus during the
previous 5 years. Of the two, AO International Tennis is probably the best, with the most
options and best gameplay. But playing these modern iterations, with
their complexity and high definition graphics just makes me yearn for something more pixelly.
Something simpler. Something like Super Tennis on the Super Nintendo, because really, somewhere
between that and Virtua Tennis is where I believe the cream of Tennis games reside,
and I’m completely up for going back and playing them again. Who knows where the future of tennis games
will take us. But somehow, I think we’ve already peaked. After all, progress doesn’t always
lead to more fun. Thanks for watching, have a great evening.

100 thoughts on “Tennis Game Evolution over 60 YEARS! | Nostalgia Nerd

  1. Virtua tennis just like you said absolutely had me in awe in how 'realistic' it was….

  2. It's interesting to note that Pong is actually based on the Odyssey game "Table Tennis", because you can't move the "bats" over the entire court. It's really a Ping Pong game (hence the name). Both Table Tennis and Tennis (where you can move sideways as well as towards and away from the net), were bundled with the Magnavox Odyssey.

  3. 16:50 “Rotational and Sprite Scaling Effects”…. the SNES did not have these. It only had Mode 7, which allows it to scale and rotate the background layer. https://youtu.be/dmqo6_BFm3E

  4. I absolutely loved Super Tennis on SNES. In hindsight it may even be what originally sparked my love of tennis.

  5. What…no mention of Hansa's "The Brat – Chalkdust – The Umpire Strikes Back"…eeh…I'm old.

    The first tv game we ever had when I were growing up was…I think it was that Grandstand tv game thing. It did not take me long to figure out that there was not great diversity with the things that were on there. Still…

    Interestingly enough, as I got older, I remember a shop where they did sell Atari 2600 cartridges, and was much taken by the amazing artwork with which these things were wrapped. The first time I ever got hold of an Atari VCS system was in 1989, and this was a sort of a reboot thing, it wasn't like how the originals looked, but hey. Still thought it was cool to get hold of one, and to play stuff like Galaxians, Crossbow, Asteroids, Hero and such on it. A few years ago I also got hold of that book about Atari Art, which…yeah, maybe deviating away from the tennis video game thing, but I thought it worth mentioning. Yeah, I may have been drinking…going on holiday tomorrow, not abroad as I hate airports, but it will be nice to just chill out for a week. Thank you for your awesome productions NN.

  6. I've spent hundreds of hours playing "sony ericsson tennis" on my phone both alone and with friends via bluetooth multiplayer.

  7. Virtual Tennis on the Dreamcast is a stunning game. Fluid, attractive, full of character, and near-perfect Arcade action. One of the top 5 games on the DC without a doubt.

  8. My friend was addicted to whipping ass on Top Spin 3. I was not so enthused about playing and losing most of the time.

  9. I don’t know if evolution is the right word. I love tennis and still prefer some of the older games like Super Tennis. I can’t remember the last really good 3D tennis game. It’s like the graphics got better but the gameplay devolved.

  10. My favorite tennis game is World Court Tennis on the Turbografx 16. It's an RPG tennis game with mediocre everything and horribly long passwords. I don't even like tennis games and I don't care much for RPGs. WCT is basic…fun…just like me.

  11. Grand Theft Auto 5 has an awesome tennis minigame in it….

    NN I know KimJustice has covered soccer games pretty well but how about you do a video covering GOLF games sometime?

  12. My favorite tennis game was Mario Tennis on Game Boy Advance. Tennis + a fun Adventure RPG put together.

  13. I don't know what "virtua tennis" on dreamcast has, but it "feels" perfect. maybe it's the framerate?. it looks and feels awesome, it's still impressive like "holy shit!! look at that!! and it plays so smooth!!".

  14. hey, i'm pretty sure "youtube" is not a license. If you mean CCBY license that you can apply to youtube videos, that's totally different and you should be using "CCBY" not youtube. I don't want you to get sued or anything.

  15. VR tennis in the living room? Sounds dangerous…. RIP the walls and everything else. Would be a fun drinking game though. Take turns playing the match or dodging the player. This could make tennis actually fun.

  16. You Forgot the Sega Game Pack 4 in 1 on the Game Gear Only in Europe.

    Edit: 3 of the game aren't a Tennis Game, but 1 is And Sonic in it!

  17. You left out all the virtua tennis sequels! To me that series is perfection. I didn't think anything could top jedi power battles for me on dreamcast, but in college my friend and I became obsessed with virtua tennis 2 and it became my favorite game on the console. I think we managed to get the king and queen to level 29 eventually, and even nights when we were too drunk to walk, we could still beat anybody. It even got me interested in actual tennis which I started watching since I was usually up super late and 3/4 of the grand slams are on tv in the middle of the night.
    The sequels were all great, quality games by every measure, however, none of them really clicked the same way for me.
    Cool vid, didn't know about Brookhaven being the origin

  18. Error at 9:22 the Super Nintendo couldn't rotate or scale sprites, it could only rotate and scale a single background layer (which could create perspective effects when combined with HBlank). Other tricks had to be used for faking sprite scaling.

  19. You will notice though how “Wimbledon” refuses to give it name to most of these games….

  20. There is a joy from playing tennis in GTA 5. After losing or winning going full nut bar and killing the other player.

    That Japanese one made me feel travel sick just from watching it. However I do recall a SNES tennis game where you could accidentally hit your doubles partner. It was accidentally as well.

    To go to other variations did they ever make a Real Tennis game.

  21. Ah the poor ColecoVision gets forgotten again despite being much better than the Atari 5200 and the inspiration for the NES. You completely missed Tournament Tennis by Imagic.

  22. Great video. Your content is absolutely top notch, like a silky smooth v12 in a classic Ferrari blasting down a lovely B road. Love it. Never change and please keep it coming.

  23. As a serious tennis player in the 1990s, my favorite was Jimmy Connor's Pro Tennis Tour on SNES. It was more realistic than Super Tennis, with a variety of shots and reasonable physics. I also enjoyed the Virtua Tennis games but wished for better physics, especially at net. The charge your shot feature would be better as a precise timing one. I felt penalized for hitting the ball at the right time, and holding the button means you are temporarily stopped from moving and reacting.

  24. My favourite ever tennis game was definitely Namco's Smash Tennis on the SNES. Yes, it wasn't realistic or serious, but the mechanics were spot-on.

  25. The only one I played when it was current was Activision Tennis. It was fun, but after a while I learned how to easily beat the computer. Two player was fun, but the person playing the far side of the court was at a disadvantage.

    I've played Virtua Tennis 3 and Virtua Tennis World Tour on the PSP via emulation and they were pretty good.

    Back in the 80s, Tournament Tennis on the C64 was my game of choice. To be clear, I'm not a huge tennis fan. I don't watch it on TV, nor do I play it in real life. That said, I do like tennis video games, if they're well done. Of course with pretty much all the later games, I never had the manuals for them, so I never knew how to control the shots. I just ran after the ball and mashed the button when I got close.

  26. Realistic sports games really are the worst. I wish we would get more dumb extreme sports stuff like from the early 00's.

  27. imagine back then all the engineers working on stuff like going to space, preventing war and then these guys were like, we turned an oscilloscope into a game.

  28. I remember playing and failing to remotely master tennis in an early 16 bit DOS game that was first person 3D with very rudimentary graphics.

    Doing a little googling, it seems that the game I'm thinking of is 4D Sports Tennis.

  29. No mention of Virtua Tennis 4 World Tour Edition on PS Vita? A handheld tennis game pushing the boundaries, showing the evolution.

    My top 3 all time tennis games.
    1. Super Tennis (SNES)
    2. Top Spin (XboxOG)
    3. Virtua Tennis 4 World Tour Edition (PS Vita)

  30. I worked in an arcade where our Virtua Tennis machine was actually a Sega Dreamcast that our technician had integrated into a Naomi Universal Cabinet. Nice and cheap way of making a very popular earner 🙂

  31. It's a shame you missed out the PC Engine's offerings, Final Match and Davis Cup are of particular note I feel.

    Intellivision Tennis is also interesting as it's totally different to anything else out there.

  32. I can't be arsed to read all the comments but someone must have said that that blokes name is said higin-bot-ham. Don't copy the cricket tosser, he's wrong.

  33. "Let's take a look at the evolution of tennis video games, starting with the 1958 Tennis for Two and ending with what our current generation of consoles has to offer."
    But you didn't. Not only did you gloss over the best selling – and easily the most innovative – tennis game of all time (Wii Tennis within Wii Sports), but you only covered consoles missing the true "evolution of tennis video games" greatly. Even then you skipped obvious console choices such as IntelliVision Tennis. Younger people who don't know the history will be misled by uninformed videos like these.

  34. Don't know if someone has already mentioned this but, Smash court tennis 2 on the ps2 has heihachi and xiaoyu from tekken and Cassandra, Raphael from soul calibur as unlockable players.

    Anna kournikova smash court tennis (PS1) also had multiple unlockable namco characters such as pacman and Eddy gordo.

  35. Smash Tennis (Super Family Tennis in Japan) for SNES is also a fun game. Not Super Tennis but definitely lots of fun.

  36. No mention of Psion's Match Point on Speccy & c64!? Shame on you! Otherwise top notch.
    In the c64 version of Match Point there was an odd glitch where the ball physics went haywire: a shot would go flying up and come down about 3 seconds later and just do a little bounce as if it had been an ordinary shot. V odd but amusing 🙂

  37. Awesome video, still like the original NES tennis the best. You did miss the Tennis game in GTA V on both modern consoles.

  38. Reading Wikipedia about Björn Borg it suggests (doesn't say it clearly) he retired around 1984. Was there no video game around where his name was mentioned? I read he had an unsuccessful comeback in 1991 and there was indeed a video game he participated in called Final Match Tennis. But this was only published for the PC Engine (TurboGrafx-16) thus not covered in this episode.

  39. Aww, no World Court Tennis on the Turbo Grafx 16/PC Engine? The only Tennis JRPG – go around, meet random tennis players in the wild, beat them for gold and upgrade your equipment before… going out and finding more tennis randos in forests? Surprisingly fun, if not very weird.

  40. Dreamcast graphics were always way underrated. I always prefer them to the PS2 and I was an exclusively PC gamer so had no bias.
    18 years can be short or long depending on your reference points. In years and personal memory it seems short but in game and game machine generations/evolution it seems soooooo long. So it's shocking to see Serena Williams featured in a game from 2001.

  41. Wimbledon Tennis on the Genesis is always my go-to choice. I don't know about all the others mentioned but, in that one, you can smash the ball right into your opponent's crotch, something my friend and I had lots of juvenile fun with back then. That it also worked on the female characters added to the humor.

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